Gvt has released a warped 2021 schools calendar. First term begins on 15 March 2021 for the three examination classes, with the rest of the classes opening on 22 March. First term will end on 4 June. Second term begins on 28 June and ends on 10 September. Third term will start on 4 October and ends on 17 December 2021.
Firstly, it is noteworthy that secondary school teachers would be marking 2020 ‘O’ and ‘A’ level examinations until the 27th of March. This would be followed by Easter holiday in early April. There is therefore no justification to open schools until after Easter holiday.
Above all, many 2020 Grade 7 pupils have not secured places for form 1 after several schools drastically reduced intakes in order to create room for forms 2, 3, 4, L6th and U6th bloated classes and hostels. It is prudent for gvt to ensure that it has resolved the quagmire of 2021 form 1 enrolment before schools can open. That even some students with 8 units have not secured places in any school is a cause for concern and breeding corruption in schools.
There is therefore, no justification or efficacy for the traditional three tie term system after losing almost a third of the year’s learning time except milking poor parents in the payment of exorbitant school fees. A more realistic return to the standard educational interface after the protracted covid 19 furlough should have considered the plight of parents and lost time, and divided the remaining months into two academic terms in order to give students more learning time, and teachers more teaching and assessment time to thoroughly prepare students for examinations, including writing and marking of internal examinations. The warped three traditional terms will not afford schools any room for internal examination, more so given the congested learning period and limited learning time and holiday time.
A more feasible calendar should have considered opening of schools after Easter holiday in April up to end of July, with second term beginning from early September up to December.
What is also more worrisome is that there has been no social dialogue between Ministry of Education and teacher unions over broad based planning for successful opening of schools. Gvt has also evaded social dialogue since November 2020, and failed to meet the 31 January 2021 deadline to restore the purchasing power parity of teachers’ salaries to pre-October 2018 levels of US$520-US$550 or equivalent. As much as teachers earn salaries ranging from RTGs $14000 to $19000, police, CIO, Soldiers etc are now earning salaries above $30 000. Teachers are therefore grossly incapacitated and would not be able to report for work until gvt capacitates them. It would be idiotic for teachers to borrow money or get in debt in order to report for work and teach other people’s children when their own children cannot access their services due to poverty. It is as well idiotic and dangerous for any level-headed person to expect teachers to report for work when practically and realistically they are incapacitated. Our humble appeal to gvt as Ptuz is for gvt to capacitate teachers prioritise their health and safety so that they can report for work and pay fees for their own children. Anyone who does not see the link between teachers’ welfare, health and safety on one hand, and successful opening of schools needs psychological therapy. Teachers and students matter in the education system and their safety must be guaranteed and so likewise should the welfare of teachers. We reiterate our commitment to work in order to give our students first class teaching methodology in schools. It is however oxymoronic to expect teachers to perform wonders when they are undernourished and vulnerable to covid 19.
Dr Takavafira M. Zhou (Ptuz President)